The Canadian government legalized non-medical cannabis use by adults in October 2018 in order to minimize associated harms and re-direct profits from criminals.

Data and methods

Seven quarters of (NCS) data were combined into two groups: pre- and post-legalization periods - to examine changes in: cannabis use (overall, daily or almost daily (DAD)), source of product, driving after consumption and riding in a vehicle with a driver who had consumed.


By 2019, overall cannabis use had increased (16.8% vs. 14.9%), particularly among: males, adults aged 25 and older, and in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Alberta. DAD use, at 6.0%, remained stable, as did the prevalence of driving within 2 hours of consumption (13.2%). Riding in a vehicle with a driver who had used declined, overall (from 5.3% to 4.2%) and among: females, persons aged 25 and older, and in Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario and Alberta. Where Canadians reported obtaining their cannabis also changed, with increasing percentages reporting getting some or all of their cannabis from legal sources, and fewer using illegal sources or relying on friends/family. Some provinces experienced more change than others.


While too soon to observe the longer-term impacts associated with the Cannabis Act, early indications based on data collected in the months surrounding enactment suggests some cautions and also some assurances. Ongoing monitoring will be essential particularly given the 2.0 Act modifications and the ever-changing provincial retail and regulatory landscapes.


legalization, Cannabis Act, C-45, controlled and illegal drugs, marijuana, substance use

DOI: https://www.doi.org/10.25318/82-003-x202000200002-eng


Cannabis is one of the most widely used substances in Canada with nearly half of Canadians reporting having used it at some time in their lives. In October 2018 Canada became the second country in the world to legalize its' sale, possession and non-medical use by adults which followed the legalization of cannabis for medical purposes about two decades earlier. Impaired driving laws were also amended to further safeguard Canadians' health and safety. [Full article]


Michelle Rotermann (michelle.rotermann@canada.ca) is with the Health Analysis Division at Statistics Canada, Ottawa, Ontario

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What is already known on this subject?

  • Cannabis remains one of the most widely used drugs in Canada.
  • Before legalization, the prevalence of cannabis use in Canada had been increasing, particularly among those aged 25 and older.
  • The prevalence of cannabis use tends to be highest at ages 18 to 24 and higher among males than females.
  • With legalization, Canadians’ access to legal cannabis via retail stores and online stores has increased.

What does this study add?

  • In 2019, the first year since non-medical cannabis use was legalized, 16.8% of Canadians aged 15 years and older reported using cannabis in the past three months. This was higher than the 14.9% who reported using in 2018, before legalization.
  • The percentages of Canadians reporting daily (or almost daily) use remained unchanged at 6.0% in 2019.
  • The likelihood of reporting driving within two hours of using cannabis also did not change with legalization-remaining stable at 13.2% of cannabis users with a driver’s license.
  • In 2019, more than half (52%) of all consumers reported obtaining at least some cannabis from a legal source. Obtaining cannabis from illegal sources also dropped in the first year of legalization from 51.7% of consumers to 40.1%.

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